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Rosemont to Become A Memory, Thanks to Lack of Black Concern
4/23/2014 2:35:35 PM

By Barney Blakeney

Recently the Berkeley-Charleston-Dorchester Counties Council of Governments held a meeting at the Military Magnet School in North Charleston to apprise residents in the area of a master plan for development of the Charleston Neck Area that connects the Charleston peninsula with the City of North Charleston. Relatively few residents attended.

The Charleston Neck Area represents one of the greatest opportunities for redevelopment in the urban center of Charleston and North Charleston. The area formerly was a major industrial site with a few predominantly Black residential communities.

While the larger community sees the potential for growth - the master plan developed by the Renaissance Group for COG is being hailed a “Partnership For Prosperity” - the Black communities in the area that include Four Mile Hibernian, Silver Hill, Rosemont Union Heights and Accabee are virtually uninvolved.

Over the past three years COG has conducted meetings, workshops and interviews for the community driven plan it calls a transportation and development planning framework. Its goals are to strengthen existing neighborhoods, solidify economic vitality and attract new development as the S.C. State Port Authority expands, growth demands compete and residential development increases.

But as communities in the Neck Area and southern district of the City of North Charleston are being reshaped, Black residents are not showing up at the table of discussion.

North Charleston’s Lowcountry Alliance for Model Communities and Union Heights Neighborhood Association President Rahim Karriem, said conspicuously absent from the discussions have been representatives of Black communities.

Over the past several years development plans for the Neck Area has changed with economic dynamics and property owners, but the overall strategy for development in the area remains unchanged. As the larger community continues to plan for the future, Black community leaders are saying they won’t be around when those changes take shape.

“But our children will be lost,” Karriem said. Citing the absence of Black elected officials and community leaders in the development of plans to reshape the Neck Area, Karriem said, “They’re preparing for the future. We’re not.”

Traditional Black communities such as Silver Hill, Rosemont, Union Heights and Accabee predominantly have older residents whose properties most likely will be sold off after their deaths paving the way for the partnership of prosperity that is the master plan, he said.

Charleston Dist. 4 Councilman Robert Mitchell who represents residents of the Charleston Neck Area said Black communities can’t begin to strategize because no plan has been developed. The Partnership for Prosperity master plan is merely a proposal that first must be approved by the two municipalities. Once that occurs, Black communities should act, he said.

Rosemont Neighborhood Association President Nancy Button said development of the SPA expansion at the former Charleston Naval Base, “is going to happen” and their community will be impacted.

Efforts to mitigate that impact is being thwarted by various entities, she said. And in the absence of a co-ordinated effort from Black communities, residents of Rosemont face ultimate displacement. A few residents will be able to coexist with the coming development, but most of the area’s predominantly Black residents will eventually be gone, she said.

Karriem said, “We ought to have a strategy, but I don’t see anyone stepping up to the plate, especially not our elected officials. We’re supposed to be the gatekeepers for our children. We should be on guard for their future. Other people are planning for their children’s future. Our ancestors must be turning over in their graves to know that all their sacrifice is going for nothing,” he said.

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